- Paddy Breathnach
- Run Time
- 1 hour and 26 minutes
VP Content Ratings
- Sex & Nudity
- Star Rating
And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’”
I felt fatigued after viewing director Paddy Breathnach and screenwriter Roddy Doyle’s superb film about a family in Dublin Ireland catapulted into homelessness through no fault of their own. News headlines at the beginning of the film inform us that high rents and the low amount of housing stock has led to Ireland having the highest rate of homelessness in Europe.
Taking place over a 36-hour period, the film depicts the plight of one family, whose fate we see is very similar to that of the working poor on this side of the Atlantic. The titular Rosie (Sarah Greene) is married to John-Paul (Moe Dunford). Their four children are 13-year-old Kayleigh (Ellie O’Halloran), eight-year-old Millie (Ruby Dunne), six-year-old Alfie (Darragh McKenzie), and four-year-old Madison (Molly McCann). The father is a low-paid dishwasher in a restaurant. Rosie has her hands full caring for the children, driving the older three to their schools, and constantly talking on her cellphone trying to obtain housing for the night.
For seven years they had enjoyed a nice house, but were evicted suddenly when their landlord decided he could make more money by selling the place. Because of their low income the couple have been provided by the Dublin City Council with a credit card and a long list of telephone numbers of hotels and landlords. Often when Rosie makes a fruitless call the person on the other end terminates the call as soon as Rosie mentions the Council credit card. At other times the admission that she has four children seems to be the reason. Always, despite how she is turned down, Rosie always ends with a polite “Thank you.”
The family does manage to find a place for one night, requiring everyone to carry in their possessions in the large plastic garbage bags, something that others can see, to their embarrassment. Because of having to get John -Paul to work and three of the children to school, the frazzled Rosie is always behind the wheel and/or on the telephone. The children are reasonably well behaved, but sometimes resentful of being late for school. She also has to deal with a well-meaning teacher concerning why her daughter is being bullied: when told some classmates are calling the girl “Smelly,” Rosie is outraged because she tries so hard to keep the children clean. (In one scene where they spend time in a fish and chips restaurant we see her taking the kids into the bathroom so they can wash and brush their teeth. They stay until they are ushered out at closing time, returning to their crowded car for the rest of the night.)
There is also a suspenseful sequence in which teenage Kayleigh rebels by not waiting for her pick-up after school. Rosie frantically searches for the runaway at their old house and friends’, at last catching up with the girl at one of her classmate’s home. During this time Rosie also checks in with her widowed mother in case the girl had shown up there, and we learn of their estrangement over her father. The specifics are not give, though they can be surmised by Rosie’s resentment and refusal to forgive him. But for this, the mother would have taken in the whole family, and does offer at least to take in the children, but Rosie turns her down.
We are completely drawn into the travails of this family by a combination of convincing acting (were this an American film we would be hearing Oscar buzz about Sarah Greene, and the child actors are lovable) and effective camera work. The use of close ups by the hand-held camera evokes a claustrophobic feeling in the confined spaces of the car, as well as a sense of intimacy as we follow Rosie about. This is the kind of family that deserves a break, so we root for them. They are the put-upon people with whom the prophets and Jesus sympathized. However, Rosie refuses to play the role of victim, declaring, “We’re not homeless, we’re just lost. We lost our keys, that’s what it feels like.”
The slice of life film, we hope, does not tell her whole story. We keep hoping that she will persist going down her telephone number list of lodgings and, like that woman in Jesus’ parable of the widow and the unjust judge, eventually finds someone who will say “Yes.” The filmmakers do not offer a solution or a fairy tale ending. They just ask us to look at these people as likeable human beings who deserve our sympathy and support in a dilemma not of their making—and that their situation might be in Ireland, but it is also the plight of many of the working poor in the viewers’ own countries as well. Maybe if enough of us see such films and take their values to heart, we will change our societies.
Sadly, there was just one other person in the theater where I saw it, so it left after just a run of one week. If this shows up at the art house theater in your area, do not delay going to see it. Watch for it to be released in some form of video. This is one of those small films that matter.
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